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Before playing sets nowadays, Wilmington, North Carolina, sludge-metal trio Weedeater hit the stage to one of a handful of songs. Two of their 1970s-born, distinctly non-metal intro choices: Quincy Jones' funky, brassy theme to the sitcom Sanford and Son and Jim Henson and Sam Pottle's opening tune for The Muppet Show. But it's not as though Weedeater picked these TV themes for meaningless giggles. Ask bassist/vocalist Dave "Dixie" Collins why and he has quips at the ready.
"Since all of our gear looks like a big pile of junk, I figured we'd come out to the Sanford and Son theme," he says. As for the second song? A snippet of The Muppet Show contains the lyrics "Why do we always come here?/I guess we'll never know/It's like a kind of torture/To have to watch the show."
Tongue-in-cheek touches such as these are as important a part of the Weedeater vibe as the band's rugged, distortion-dipped riffs and generally intimidating sound. Their record titles offer more evidence of their sense of humor. Their 2001 debut, . . . And Justice for Y'all, cracks wise on a Metallica classic, as well as their southern-rock-tinted sound and southern roots alike (Collins' accent glows in conversation). The puns in both 2007's God Luck and Good Speed and 2011's Jason . . . the Dragon play up the group's affinity for the use of illegal substances. (Sixteen Tons from 2002 sadly lacks in the wordplay department.) Jason features tracks about taking a shit ("The Great Unfurling," whose dramatic narration could easily be mistaken as a voice-over for a swords-and-crowns miniseries); the resulting crap ("Hammerhandle"); a giant, man-like raccoon ("Mancoon"); and whatever a "Turkey Warlock" is supposed to be.
None of this is to imply Weedeater are fundamentally a joke band. That comedy juxtaposes meaty, unabashedly aggressive music that owes debts to Black Sabbath, the Accüsed, Blue Cheer, Lynyrd Skynyrd and other such rock bands who generally stick/stuck to their lane. Collins once described his act's style as "cave metal" and still supports a loud, hard ideal. "I don't know what the percentage would be, but not everybody that goes to the shows can play music," he says. "When you play a million notes in a row and some crazy scale, it goes over a lot of peoples' heads, and I'd just rather hit 'em square in the forehead or in the balls." That said, Weedeater are growing increasingly interested in performing small experiments, too: Jason sports the bluesy, pensive "Palms of Opium"; the sneaky drum workout "March of the Bipolar Bear"; and the bluegrassy, banjo-based "Whiskey Creek."
Considering all the destruction, anger and violence that constantly saturate metal of all flavors, Weedeater's half-lighthearted sensibility infuses them with real personality and self-awareness. Have they experienced any hostility from more somber metal bands who think they aren't taking the genre seriously enough? "I don't know. I'm sure there are people who probably think we're a joke or too much of a joke, but they can fuck off. If they don't get the sense of humor, it's fine. It doesn't matter to me," Collins says. "Simple fact of the matter is we didn't have a name for our band, and my dog ate my weed, and that's the name for the band right there. Really, it's not rocket science or anything. I don't see why people try to act like it is."
This article appeared in print as "Riff Masters: Weedeater get high on a mix of humor and heaviness."